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3rd May 2023 Parkinson’s

Life-changing surgery returns to Flinders Medical Centre

Dr Ema Knight, Lynette Duncan & Olivia Nassaris

A life-changing surgery for people with Parkinson’s has returned to Flinders Medical Centre after 2.5 years thanks to a $268,000 grant by The Hospital Research Foundation Group.

The treatment – called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) – involves implanting electrodes within the brain that help regulate body movement. It helps ease the tremors and other symptoms associated with Parkinson’s.

Flinders Medical Centre has been a leader in DBS surgery for public patients in South Australia since 2007, however in November 2020 the specialised equipment needed for the surgery was accidentally damaged.

The Hospital Research Foundation Group was pleased to work with the hospital to fund the new equipment.

The first patient to undergo DBS with the new equipment was successfully treated on 30 March.

“Deep Brain Stimulation has been a proven, cost-effective and life-changing therapeutic option for patients with neurological conditions including Parkinson’s and Essential Tremor,” neurosurgeon Dr Ema Knight said, who is leading the surgery.

“Flinders Medical Centre has been proud to offer DBS since 2007 in a collaboration between the Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry departments.

“We are so grateful to The Hospital Research Foundation Group and its donors for helping us purchase new equipment and reinstate DBS for South Australia’s public patients.”

DBS involves electrodes being placed deep in the brain which are connected to a stimulator device. Similar to a heart pacemaker, a neurostimulator uses electric pulses to regulate brain activity.

Lynette Duncan, 67, was the first patient to undergo DBS with the new equipment to treat her Essential Tremor and mild Parkinson’s. Interestingly, patients are awake during the first critical part of the surgery.

“There was a huge difference straight away,” Lynette said, who first started having symptoms of Essential Tremor in her 20s.

“They put the electrodes in and you see it straight away, they get you to hold a drink bottle or put a drink to your mouth.

“It’s quite a daunting operation but I can say now it’s been really fantastic, it’s been life-changing.”

Olivia Nassaris, Executive Director of The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Parkinson’s, said “Deep Brain Stimulation can be a game-changer for people living with Parkinson’s”.

“We’re thrilled to be supporting the passionate team at Flinders Medical Centre who have worked tirelessly to make DBS a possibility for South Australians living with Parkinson’s since 2007.

“To have DBS available at Flinders again will help people living with Parkinson’s transform their lives, be more independent and be less reliant on care services or medication.”